Dressing The Stones

There can be little doubt that the Sarsens were first of all roughly

hewn into shape, before they were conveyed to the site. It stands to

reason that a primitive race, when faced with the problem of

transporting a vast mass of stone, would first of all reduce its bulk

to the approximate proportions which it would have when finished and

erected. Moreover, the chippings and mason's waste discovered in the

excavations of
901 reveal comparatively little Sarsen stone, and only

a few large fragments, such as must have been broken off in finally

reducing the Grey Wethers to monolithic pillars and lintels. It must

not be forgotten either, that the Sarsens occur naturally in tabular

blocks, well adapted to the purpose of the builders. The surface of

these blocks is often soft, and sugary, while the body of the stone

is dense. The nature of their composition is such that no two stones

are quite alike in hardness, some can be disintegrated easily, even

with the fingers, while others are dense, and will resist blows with a

hammer and chisel.

But in any case the natural structure of the stone made it an ideal

material for the Trilithons, or, it may be, that the Trilithons were

the natural outcome of the physical peculiarities of the rock. The

preliminary dressing may very possibly have been effected by lighting

small fires along the proposed line of fracture, and heating the

stone, and then by pouring cold water upon it, which would originate a

cleavage in the grain, which would readily break away under blows from

the heavy mauls referred to in Class V. of the Implements. Sides and

ends could thus be roughly squared.

The next point was the transportation of the rough ashlar to the site.

Here the problem is not so formidable as it appears, when it is

remembered that time was no object to the builders, that labour was

abundant, and that in all probability the work was undertaken under

the stimulus of religion.

Labour, tree trunks, and stout ropes of twisted hide would have proved

sufficient. It is only necessary to consider very briefly the

megalithic monuments in Egypt, Assyria, and elsewhere, to see that

such tasks were well within the capacities of a race emerging from

comparative savagery. There exists on the wall of a tomb at El Bersheh

in Egypt a very characteristic illustration of the transport of a

Colossus; such as are to be seen in situ in Egypt to-day. The

approximate date of this is B.C. 2700-2500, and prior to Stonehenge by

about 1000 years.

Arrived at the site, the more skilled work of final dressing was

completed. A close examination of the face of some of the fallen

stones reveals several shallow grooves on the face with a rib or

projection between them. It has been suggested that the rough stone

was violently pounded with the heavy mauls until the surface was

broken up and reduced to sand for a considerable depth, and the

débris brushed away. The projecting ridge resulting from this could

then be cut away by hammer and stone chisel, or even by the hammer